Privilege Blog

Stationery, With An “E”

Stationery from Mrs. John L. Strong (

Paper refuses to surrender.

Sure, we can text, tweet, post, email, and distribute words in all sorts of esoteric ways. But it seems we still like paper. And we like it to be pretty, and to say something about us to boot.

A reader asked, for your first monogrammed stationery, should you choose a fold-over or single card?

I respond the way I do for most questions of protocol where I think I have a chance of knowing the right answer, I go with my gut. Sort of like grammar – I was not taught the rules, rather lived them in a house full of literate and prolific talkers. As a result I make mistakes but I do not mind. Impunity.

My gut says you can do as you please, in the world of notecards.  However, I also believe that in this day and age, a single card makes more sense. We’re mostly sending thank you notes, and using paper to create a little ceremony. Lo and behold, by the looks of this article in the New York Social Diary, Joy Lewis of Mrs. John L. Strong agrees.

I’d probably choose something modern, like this letterpress from Moontree Press.

moontree press stationery

If I had a real vision, then I’d ask Precious Bugarin, who we are working with for wedding invitations, to design something custom.

Assuming my mood swung traditional, I’d go all the way to Dempsey & Carroll. If you’re monogramming, do it with a flourish. Or two.


Alternatively, and with the option to spend far less money, you’re safe with Crane & Co. I could play with their personalizer for hours.


I suppose thermography is somehow less desirable than hand-engraving, or letterpress, but I also suppose that I don’t care terribly much. At least not for reasons of etiquette. Impunity. Impunity, a little good taste, and paper forever. I see formatted emails as our television, and paper as the movies. Alternatively, email as a Broadway musical, and paper as the opera. Old and new, ornate and simple, long and short coexist.

44 Responses

  1. I have always loved the idea of sending personal notes through snail mail, but I have to admit that I do turn to emails when there is a time crunch as well. I really like hand embossers, and your article has me thinking more seriously about getting one. It lends such a personal touch…and isn’t that what correspondence is all about? Thanks!

  2. I’m quite old-school, I love to send thank you notes – and they’re always well-received. I do like the modern letterpress you’ve chosen. Will we get to see your wedding invitations??

  3. Always have loved nice stationery. I have some monogrammed note cards that I copied from my mother and grandmother. I just love sending them.

  4. I’ve always adored formal stationery. I remember when I got married [back in the dark ages] how excited I was to pick out our formal engraved notes– and my brand new monogramed stationery. Still have some of both, just for sentimental reasons.

  5. I still have some of my wedding stationary and the little copper/die things to have more made, except I haven’t even used up the original order. I like that Moontree Press version.

    I came across the leftover printed napkins and matches from our wedding recently. I decided to quit saving them, so we’ve been lighting candles with them. I leave the matchbook on the table, it’s good for a conversation starter.

  6. I also recommend cards from Thornwillow press. They have cards with all sorts of darling images, from daisies to owls, to martini glasses, to samurai bears. I got two boxes for a lovely Christmas present last year!

  7. Dear all-

    I have always loved stationery.. Like Srephanie, I wish there were a support group for “papyrusphiles!”

    I have all kinds…My niece keeps me stocked. So do my grandchildren, and me!! Every time there is a sale there I am! Barnes and Noble had a stationery sale on French notes.. I bought them all… I have the formal, engraved ones.. the ones my kids bring from their trips.. papers from Florence.. I have the cute ones for whimsical notes.. I just love writing notes: thank you, birthdays, congratulatory, you name it! I refuse to pay $4.00 for an already-made card that says nothing that comes from ME… My family thinks this is wonderful! I happen to write Palmer style and I love writing. Good combo. This is an art, and I have every intention of keeping it alive for as long as I can…


  8. My solution for writing thank you notes and other handwritten missives is to use correspondence cards. I get them from the Met Museum on line store. There is always a selection of embossed designs at the top. The are the perfect size for writing a short note or a longer letter using both sides. I have other engraved stationary and note cards, but I always use these because they have a more contemporary aesthetic in my eyes.

  9. I´d like to have my own stationary.
    So far, I only have my self-designed business/ calling cards and love to close a letter with a signet which has either the letter M or my last name in it.
    So – off to design my own stationary!

  10. And you’ll never go wrong with the old standard, Merrimade. My mother and grandmother used them, as I do now. Terrific selection of stationery and stationery-related items for all ages.

  11. Lisa, you’ve stirred up an old lust for customized stationary. Though I’ve committed in the past to creamy, monogrammed cards, I’ve rarely used them up before moving on to lesser boxed notes covered with watercolor dogs or Mapplethorpe lilies. ( Museum gift shops are my chief enablers.) But these images of engraved and letterpressed papers make me want to explore fonts and envelope liners once more.

  12. If email is a Broadway musical and paper the opera, does that make texting a middle-school piano recital? :)

    This delicious talk of formal stationary has elicited a fond memory: when I graduated from Miss Porter’s School (Farmington), in the era somewhere between disco and rap, each senior was issued a large box of actual calling cards, engraved with her full name. Totally archaic, even at the time (they were utilized for a Tradition, which the Omerta of the Ancients forbids me to reveal), they were nonetheless beautiful, and made me feel so grown up!

    1. This is too incredible! Flashback: with your engraved calling cards, did you receive the same WASP instruction that I did re calling cards ie to take up a pen [ink flowing, mind] and “strike” [in an arc] over your engraved given name just prior to enclosing it with a wrapped present? Wasp code absurdity, but I remember it still.

  13. I ADORE writing papers. And have since elementary school.

    Am remembering in the top drawer of daddy’s desk at home [differing from that at the office] was a cache of engraved writing paper, heavy stock, and the tiny little steel die tucked in a niche alongside, the die wrapped with very precise folded corners in shiny ecru wrapper. I found it all fascinating, the paper, the die, the three initials with the dot between the letters. Everything about him, including his paper, was just so. It was from my mom that I picked up the Artsy, but it was from my dad that I picked up the Grande.

    What a coincidence then to see an article on DailyBeast today, a story of how a century old stationer has evolved all this time by necessity into what it is today, its recent vigorous trade featuring rather rude idioms — Terrapin Stationers by name.

    I’ve just bought a bunch of these to give to my husband annually for the rest of our lives:

    And these are for me:

  14. I have many weaknesses and stationery is one of them. Love Cranes. Found a pile of boxed notecards in a bargain bin at Office Depot once. Made sure to grab several. Wish I had just gone ahead and bought them all!

  15. Let us not forget, amid this delicious discussion of stationery, to mention the companion art of calligraphy (which I was taught in 6th grade at my school in NYC and still call forth for special occasions), and the companion tool of choice: the fountain pen. No doubt this could elicit a separate post in itself. Meanwhile, I hope you will introduce me to “Artsy,” because I went to the same high school, and likewise was the recipient of those wonderful ‘calling cards”!

  16. Reply to Flo:

    WASP code, indeed! I never used the cards beyond their function in MPS tradition, but I do remember “the rules,” as they were passed down from my grandmother’s generation. Yes, strike out the printed name and write your own. Unless….To leave the card with printed version intact and no signature would imply a certain formality and distance. Or, if you were on a “crossed-out-plus-written-name” basis and a card should appear with printed-name only, this implied “we’ve got a problem.” And then there were levels within choice of written name: signing your name (say it’s Elizabeth) as Elizabeth, Liz, or Bitsy carried additional connotations of Inner Circlehood. Yikes, too darn formal and complicated for me, and best left to the professionals ;)

  17. To Alex in Seattle:

    How wonderful! I would be delighted to make your (re?)acquaintance through Lisa. If the Shray Disco and Lounge in Humphrey/Colony basement means anything to you, I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about!

    Artsy in Boulder

  18. I have a stationery wardrobe almost as large as my shoe collection according to my husband, I’ll only list the basics here. Of course, like any lady in thr Palm Beaches, I havet formal ecru “informals” engraved with our married name on them on ecru panelled folders in black ink, I also draw a line through our names if the note is going to friends. These are used for everything for replying to formal wedding invites to thanking others for dinner parties. We have Crane’s Mr. & Mrs. calling cards for introducing ourselves or giving out information to new people we’d like to know better. They’re engraved on ecru heavy board stock in hunter green ink in a vertical format with a motif of an 18th C. French hot air balloon (which will be removed when I get my next reprint as too many people mistakenly think we’re in real estate) when it actually represents a favorite hobby of ours. I have some digitally printed square cards I ordered through Papyrus online (Marcel Schurmann/Caspari) printed on a Bright Lime damask background on both sides with hot pink initials and the balance of the type in Bright Lime ink. I’ve a box of a Monarch-sized 100% cotton rag ecru, vellum finish paper with no personalization I use only for condolence letters. This is the type of paper preferred for writing this type of letter. There should be nothing on the sheet to detract from the dignity and seriousness of one’s words. I have 2 different types of correspondence cards: a dark navy thermographed set on an ecru 2ply card I adapted from a Carlson Craft business announcement, the return address is on the flap; the print is a legible Bodoni, the full name is letterspaced across the top of the card; my name; my address across the bottom of the card (because often people toss put the envelope when opening their mail) and a set of Crane & Co. ecru cards with a lovely three-initial modern monogram on the upper left, the address on the bottom, envelopes unlined as I only write 3-4 lines and don’t use the back of the card I use these for birthday and wedding anniversary wishes too, I also love embossers and Stampers from Three Designing Women in Texas. The discount Flash Site One King’s Lane often runs specials on their merchandise and I try to take advantage of those. K have a 2-line blind embossed address stamp and a three initial stamp with a floral wreath around my initials. I imprint these on colorful blank stock I also purchase on OKL. I try to purchase textured stock as the embossing smooths out the texture and makes the embossing really pop. Thesr fancy embosserd can often be pickedabe in up for $55. Packs of 20 cards with contrasting envelopes can be found in the Clearance Basement for as little as $9. I also buy Christmas cards on 12/26 at Tiffany & Co. at 50% off and the tropically-themed ones at Crane & Co. with the holiday imprintable dudyebt menus, placecards and seals then too. I also buy many motifs correspondence cards on sale at Dempsey & Carroll. Sometimes I purchase the ones with corner motifs and have the printer sevd them to the locaj business card thermographed to imprint my in the center after seeing a proof. If you choose this route, be sure to supply the printer with at least 10% more than you expect to come out with for waste. Some cards gets jammed up in the press and a few get damaged. Even though they make set-up the press on blank stock to get the press rolling and the ink color right, there is still a high margin for error. Also stay away from gray ink of possible. It’s a difficult ink to stay consistent because of the amount of water used in the process which can easily dilute the color.

  19. Dear Lisa,
    Please feel free to edit or even remove my
    ridiculously long share. Thank you.

    Anna J. Tonarely
    aka “PBChic”

  20. I enjoy stationery for its own sake, but I don’t use it. After 18 months overseas, I’m finding it hard enough to keep up with a few people by email, let alone handwriting letters.

    For my lovely aunt who doesn’t have email, I generally type and print (with a few comments at the end by hand) as typing is so much quicker, easier, I can edit and spell-check and fit lots more writing onto the page.

    I do make time to send Easter and Christmas cards to a reasonably long list of folks just to let them know that I still love them.

    Your post reminds me of how much I appreciated the cards and notes from friends and family when my mother died. I feel guilty but I just couldn’t face tracking down addresses and replying to them all at the time – I was pretty much like a walking zombie. I wonder if two years later is too late for a note saying ‘thank you, it meant a lot…’?

    1. I do not think it’s every too late to say thank you. Especially when you mean it.

  21. Stationery, with an E – I love it, that’s exactly how I remember the difference between E and A – E for envelope!

  22. When I worked in New York, way back in 1996(!), I swooped into Barneys during one lunch hour to view the Mrs. John L. Strong stationery offerings. I especially remember Ingrid Sischy’s choice, which was one of the display pieces–it was embellished with a pug (in a colour like red or yellow, I believe) and I was smitten. My editorial assistant budget, however, did not allow my own custom design, which would have shown off my two bulldogs. Oh well.

  23. I just found this lovely post. Thank you! I could wander around those links for hours, but unfortunately Crane’s is the only place somewhat within my budget. Here’s my dilemma: I use a fountain pen to write with, usually with blue ink. But I’d like either white cards with a gray monogram, or cream with black. Does that work with blue ink? Do I need to change ink colors? I can’t see myself with a navy monogram somehow.

  24. My father has this ring that has his initials on top of the ring, so when he decides to invite lots of people for some reason (celebrating a round number birthday, or their wedding aniversary), he just takes the invitations ,put them in an envelope and use wax to seal them with stamping his initials into the wax.
    That looks sooo cool!

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